Campaign for Peace & Justice in Chhattisgarh
c/o F-10/12, GF, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi
Phone: 011-26680883 / 9868727936 / 9868099304 / 9958313838
Press Release 4th September 2007
People’s Convention on ‘Salwa Judum; Civil War in Chhattisgarh’
held in New Delhi
- Convention attended by more than 250 people from various walks of life
- Ajit Jogi (Ex-CM Chhattisgarh), Sandeep Dixit (MP, Delhi), Manish Kunjam (ex-MLA Dantewara), Himanshu Kumar (Vanvasi Chetna Manch, Dantewara), Kamal Mitra Chenoy (Professor, JNU), Dr. B. D. Sharma (former Chairperson National SC/ST Commission), among those who joined hands against Salwa Judum atrocities
- Villagers from Dantewara elaborate incidents of gross violence and repression on villagers in Dantewara by Salwa Judum
- Jilla Panchayat member narrates brutal beating, torture and arrest for 9 months, for defying Salwa Judum summons
- People’s Convention demands immediate disbanding & disarming of Salwa Judum
- Demands Government of India to institute high level independent enquiry into all incidents of violence including killings, ambushes, disappearances, rapes and other physical violence used on villagers by Salwa Judum
- Demands Communist Party of India (Maoists) to stop all acts of violence, brutality and create conducive atmosphere for dialogue
[In one of the first civil society initiatives on Salwa Judum, many organizations and individuals in Delhi came together for a People’s Convention on ‘Salwa Judum: Civil War in Chhattisgarh’ on the 4th September 2007. The Convention was attended by Members of Parliament, Human Rights activists, journalists, intellectuals and others from different walks of life]
“Salwa Judum has become an uncontrolled private militia, with an absolute license to kill, rape or arson with absolute impunity from the state government and the central government”, said Himanshu Kumar of the Vanvasi Chethna Manch from Dantewara district of Chhattisgarh, where the creation of Salwa Judum has lead to a civil war situation. He added that it has become impossible for either the Chief Minister or the initiators of this brutality to control or end it now.
Kartam Joga, a District Council (Jilla Panchayat) member from Dantewara stated that he was in prison for 9 months just for defying the summons and orders of the Salwa Judum. Narrating the brutalities and torture he had to face from the SJ members and the para-military forces, Shri. Joga added that the Salwa Judum was angry with him for protesting against the burning of village houses and also for protesting and attempting to file police FIRs on killing and torture of innocent villagers.
“Salwa Judum is the by-product of BJP and Right-wing fascist forces to gain control over the adivasi areas. Salwa Judum is not any spontaneous peace campaign against the Maoists or Naxalites. It is a game-plan by the fascist forces to destroy the people and their culture and to forcefully establish the culture of hatred that the BJP represents” said Shri. Ajit Jogi, former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and Congress Party leader. “Salwa Judum targets not just our people, culture or political opposition, it aims to eliminate democracy in Chhattisgarh”, warned the former Chief Minister.
“More than Seventy thousand people of our 700 villages are stationed in these so called Rehabilitation Camps set up by the Salwa Judum and state government. People are given rice, salt and oil in such ration that food meant for 15 days will not even serve a family a day. It is estimated the state government spends about Rs. 100 a day on every displaced family, living in the camps. The local contractors and police are absolutely hand-in-glove with the Salwa Judum and the safety and security of adivasi people are at risk and stake. Women are attacked, molested or raped at any time of the day by the Salwa Judum people or the police officers. I have got abusive phone calls from several village representatives and elected people, who could not protect even their own women from the filth of the SJ leaders or the drunken police officers” said Ajit Jogi in anguish.
The former Chief Minister stated that even after being a Congress Party leader and the former Chief Minister of the state he is unable to do anything as Salwa Judum has actually created a brutal civil war situation in the entire region, from which it looks impossible for Chhattisgarh and its people to save themselves from.
“Tribal people all over India, in mainland India as well as in the North East region are subjected to alienation from their lands and other resources and hence repression of unprecedented nature”, said Mani Charan Mai, Member of Praliament from Nagaland. He blamed the policies by the state and the central government for the unprecedented civil war ongoing in Chhatisgarh, created by the Salwa Judum militia.
The Convention demanded the Government of Chhattisgarh to immediately disband and disarm Salwa Judum and to stop recruiting Special Poice Officers (SPO). It also demanded that the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005 be repealed. The Convention demanded Government of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop supporting Salwa Judum and such initiatives under the cover of village defence mechanisms.
The Convention demanded that the state government and the Maoists should stop all acts of violence and initiate a situation conducive for political dialogue.
The Campaign for Peace and Justice in Chhattisgarh is a campaign group formed by individuals and organisations who are deeply concerned about the flagrant violation of human rights going on in Chhattisgarh in the name of fighting “internal terrorism”. We are extremely concerned by the violence unleashed by the state backed Salwa Judum which has pushed Chhattisgarh into a civil war situation and the repressive Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 which is being used to crush all voices of dissent in the state.
Pravin Mote: 09313879073; Goldy George: 09958313838; Sridevi Panikkar: 09868099304
In the summer of 2005, news reports started appearing of a ‘spontaneous’, ‘self-initiated’,’ peaceful’, ‘people’s movement’ in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh against the Naxalites, known as the Salwa Judum. The district administration claims that upset with the Maoist strike call on collecting tendu leaves and opposition to development works like road construction and grain levies, people in some 200 villages began mobilizing against the Maoists, going on processions and holding meetings.
However, this picture of the Salwa Judum is far from accurate. The fact is that the Salwa Judum is being led by sections of local elites, contractors and traders, that it is officially part of the official anti-naxal initiatives, being actively supported by the Chhattisgarh Government. Far from being a peaceful campaign, Salwa Judum ‘activists’ are armed with guns, lathis, axes, bows and arrows. Up to January 2007, 4048 “Special Police Officers” (SPOs) had been appointed by the Government under the Chhattisgarh Police Regulations. They actively participate in the Salwa Judum and are given military and weapons training by the security forces as part of an official plan to create a civil vigilante structure parallel to that of the Naxalites.
Though exact figures are not known, over the last two years, atleast 1, 00,000 people have been displaced and the lives of at least 3, 00,000 people from at least 644 “liberated villages” has been completely disrupted, because of Salwa Judum. People are forcibly picked up from their villages and are confined into ‘relief camps’, where they face acute shortage of food, water and other basic amenities. The condition of several thousands who have been forced to migrate to neighbouring states and districts is even worse. All those villages which have not come into camps are deemed “Maoists” villages and denied all health, education and other facilities, including access to markets. A large number of people have thus been denied their fundamental rights.
There has been a complete breakdown of civil administration and the rule of law in Dantewada district and Salwa Judum ‘activists’ have become vigilantes who assert the right to control, intimidate and punish anyone they consider to be a suspected Naxalite. Cases of murder, loot, arson, rape and other violence and atrocities by Salwa Judum go unreported. The Government does not accept responsibility for the actions of the Salwa Judum ‘activists’, it sponsors, encourages, promotes and assures them full state protection and grants them impunity to operate as an extra-legal authority within the district.
The Government’s only response to Maoist insurgency has been to militatrise; step up police operations and to pit civilians, in the name of Salwa Judum, against Maoists and against each other. By resorting to such measures, the government has seriously challenged the efficacy of democratic and constitutional means of finding solutions to people’s problems. It has completely failed to address the root of the discontent, the deprivation and alienation of Adivasis, which form basis of the Maoist foothold in Dantewara. Even according to states government’s own figures, Salwa Judum has only intensified the conflict.